Article by: Martin Lortz
I am an adventure bike rider and I call Ontario, Canada my home stomping grounds (check the link for some killer routes). Why is this important? Well if you were to ask me not so long ago if I was interested in riding a sport tourer on paved roads the answer would be “nahhh.
But people change and I’ve started to develop an appreciation for long days in the saddle and the fun factor of twisty pavement. I must admit the idea of a bike specifically designed to make the most of this new found interest started to grow on me.
So when an opportunity presented itself to spend some time on Yamaha's popular FJR 1300 I wasn't about to settle for a 10 minute rip around the block. I’m thinking a 600 kilometer’s loop through Muskoka's best twisties should do the trick.
It literally took me just minutes to get the bike set up for the ride. Power modes, suspension setup, windshield height, all available through a straight forward menu at the tip of your thumb. On the comfort side of things you can adjust the seat height which I did to the high position (no tools required) and the handlebars can be set to one of three positions which I did not.
I’m 6’4” and I will admit the sport riding position scares me, but surprisingly I managed to fold myself into the FJR cockpit with ease. I will call the riding position semi sport, slightly upright offering good control as well as good sight lines. The bike’s 642 pound heft pops easily off the kick stand but it is noticeable at low speed, a feeling that disappears quickly as speed increases.
The next eight hours or so in the saddle proves to be comfortable and enjoyable. Sure the butt cheeks got a bit squirmy towards the end of the day, but hey even my favourite lazy boy can get annoying after eight hours of a sit marathon. Another pleasant discovery was the lack of wind noise. Yamaha uses a central vent beneath the instrument panel which reduces negative pressure in the rider compartment and adjustable fairing side panels letting the rider control direct lower body airflow. All this along with the power adjustable windshields makes buffeting noise a non-issue, at least for me coming from a small screen adventure bike howler.
With a fifteen year history the FJR 1300 is well established in the sport touring community; but all good things need improvement, eventually, and this was the year for the FJR to receive some major updates. Some like the new LED headlight system and the LED tail light design are easily spotted but the bulk of the improvements are hidden in the compact and lightweight, 1298cc, DOHC, 16 valve, liquid-cooled inline four-cylinder engine. Peer inside and you will find a new 6-speed transmission. The gears are now helically cut, for smoother, quieter running, and new separated gear dogs improve transmission performance. This also allowed Yamaha to add a 6th tall gear without affecting the width of the engine. Add to this a new assist-and-Slipper clutch reducing clutch lever effort by approximately 20%, and a Chip Controlled Throttle YCC-T a ride-by-wire system which provides crisp, seamless throttle response. The whole package gets a definite thumbs up from both hands.
As for the ride, sitting on the bike I felt instantly comfortable and relaxed, a feeling rarely experienced from a bike straight from the showroom floor. Nothing was pinching or cramping, but the impressive thing is three hours later I felt just as good. As for power, there is plenty to spare, a twist on the throttle and the bike lunches forward and keeps pulling through the gears. Having a limited time with the FJR, I kept the RPM’S on the sporty side but did give the new 6th gear a try on a stretch of open highway resulting in silky smooth cruising at around 3200 RPM or so, a work load that can make the 6.6 gallon gas tank go a long way. When things got twisty the fun began sporty, solid, planted, fun. Even though I am sure I wasn't pushing the FJR nowhere near it’s limits I quickly came to appreciate the pleasure of having the right tool for the job.
Yamaha’s FJR 1300 has been a winner for the company for a decade and a half, now with the improvements its success is that much more secure. Never having rode a sport tourer before I must say my day with the FJR 1300 was the most fun I ever had on a motorcycle without getting stuck in a mud hole.
So am I ready to give up my adventure bike? No, not yet but if you ask me to take this bike out for another 600 kilometer rip around the block my answer definitely won't be, nahhhh.